Pilli Pala Festival and WGCADA the charity behind it by Charlotte Case.

 Charlotte Case is a Singer/Songwriter/Comedian/Performer who studied Songwriting in Bristol and now resides in Swansea. She has a personal experience of the charity WGCADA who are behind the festival and so this was a great opportunity to talk a little about the amazing work they are doing and how music and the creative arts can make a massive difference to peoples lives. Pili Pala festival is definitely a positive force and a step in the right direction bringing people together over the love of music and poetry.

The Pili Pala Festival rolled into the venues of Uplands town to show us music lovers what for! A Charity funded Music festival, Pilli Pala took pride in showcasing solely Welsh acts, with smatterings of spoken word. Driven with a lot of heart and soul. From the powerhouses that are The Phantom Light to the sweet and melancholic tones of singer songwriter Dai sharkey.

Pilli Pala Spanned over a cluster of cozy venues in the Uplands, and the odd one out the soulless Sin City which is reportedly coming off the bill next year. Predominantly a guitar based music fest with heavy indie bands and a plethora of singer/songwriter types, there was much to uncover over the day and a half of festivities with little quirky surprises along the way including free cheese!! - plus the extravagance of a venue like St James church - an amazing sound experience for both artists and audience indeed.

photo by Charlotte Case

The brains behind this lovely happening is Angela Muir, Charity fundraiser for WGCADA, a Drug and Alcohol Support Organization based in Swansea. One of Angela's roles is to try to ‘de-stigmatise the perceptions of addiction and substance misuse, and celebrate the powerful role the arts play in changing lives’. She said:

"There’s nothing really like Pili Pala in this area, so we used that as an opportunity to celebrate the healing and cathartic power of the arts and generate support for WGCADA." 

Further to my discussion with Angela we talked more deeply about the necessity to challenge the current existing norm that music culture is intrinsically linked to drinking culture, and a lot of the time, drug taking, that is slowly killing our spirit. 

Photo by Owen Connibear

Lovely happy people

Pilli Pala is showing the way! With epic Welsh bands, smiley staff, beautiful venues and cheap, cheap tickets at £15 for a day and a half you couldn't go wrong with the amount of visual and audible stimulation you could have shoved into your oraphys’s that weekend! Good show!

Although Saturday was brilliant Friday was a bit of a let down, due to lack of attendance on both sides. Pilli Pala howl didn’t go ahead and the ‘WGCADA, Another Mile More creative writing crew’ was missing, which was a shame. I think this would have been a touching and awakening experience to begin the festival with. All in all, my experience on the Friday night just felt like a really random night out. Bar the incredible and awesome power of 'Fist of The First Man' ripping up Sin City like no ones dirty business.

Fist of the first Man

Restless excitement built inside of me as I rushed hastily to GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM! I was itching to climb the stairs to meet the absolute rage that was eroding a hole through the layers of soundproofing above me.

Flying through the door I was lost in a swell of strobe ridden sound waves, stalking and savagely devouring my eardrums. Locked in, I followed the music intently over the bounce of the grooves, screaming scuzzy guitar riffs and ambient electronic flavours that washed over the mix. 
Skilfully and relentlessly constructing this beautifully entangled wall of sound,

I was left with my tongue hanging out begging for more.

Fist of the First Man are pure energy with intent.

If you want a intensely deep and satisfying cochlea penetration then these are your sweet musical lovers, lap ‘em up.


Pilli Pala on the Saturday was a beautiful affair. A festival in the city is never going to be easy to pull off. Recreating the magic in an urban landscape, funded only on charitable donations, is always going to be a challenge. The marquee not going up meant we could all lay about lazy on the sun drenched courtyard of St James church. Serenaded by the lovely Mr Chris Stringer. A full on festival feeling in the middle of Swansea. More of this please!!

Only thing I can think that would improve on this year is to see the front space of the grounds be used to its full potential. By having some stalls and little areas of where fun can be had to get the place bustling. Also to have some up tempo bands from other genres with summer vibes, like maybe reggae or soul. That would do lovely for next year!

This is the music that God built!!

Nanoock of the North

Photo by Lee Aspland

What a band of good humoured and artistically gifted merry men! I couldn’t get to the computer fast enough to rave about this lovely lot. Perfectly placed in the surroundings of the cavernous sound hole that is the mighty St James Church. ‘Nannock of the North’ won over the room with their deep, and heavy atmospheric indie setup. I could tell by the energy sparking off Sam the guitarist and the addition of the light sabre adorning the middle of the stage that they meant business.

The song entitled ‘Nanoock’ creates what I can only describe as a welcoming warmth. A perfect communion of electronic echos, ethereal vocals, and soothing guitar lines with a subtle driving power behind it.

Photo by Polly Homjakina

I shall try and illustrate in your mind how this song made me feel.

Visualise the scene, like you were a kid again and you were at your friends grandparents house, visiting for a while.

Sitting quietly in the front room, with the tv down low. Distracted for a second, you hear a voice, a soothing voice - that ebbs and flows over the air, delivering itself to you through the crack of the door.

Curious- you reach to pull the door an inch closer to your burning ear.

As the deepening tone of an elderly man grows louder, you realize its the voice is of your friends Grandfather, telling a story about a voyage, a sea fairing adventure. The animated gentlemen draws you nearer, inquisitively you wander from the room, and even though you don’t know him very well, for some reason without words you know that it is ok to sit.

So you intently settle to listen for a while (and its not just coz u know he’s gonna wap the old Worthers Originals out!).

Slowly building a story in my head Nanook created a sense of quiet but definable security for the listener with a natural ease. They struck a perfect balance between the use of spaciousness and they’re blend of instrumental dynamics. Beautifully mirroring the vital inflections and confidence that you would imagine of a good storyteller drawing you deeper into the depths of the tale.

Beguiling the audience with their melodic mirages. Nanook also have the ability to grab you by the jugular and slam you to the floor with some hardcore rampant riffs and serve up some hot throbbing bass laden fuzz straight to your yug’oles. They switch it up with some cheeky unexpected drum sequences that made me smile and air drum the shit out of it like a mad woman.

Photo by Owen Connibear

The venue however felt restrictive in the sense of the pews seemed to demand some sort of rigid respect ‘a dancing isn’t allowed lay out’ and even though I don’t even believe in god, the sit down nature of the whole affair felt like it didn’t fit. Amazing sound, but the need for a casual headbang is too much for a sit down venue. The good news is that I’ve heard a sneaky rumour that the pews might be taken out to host future events, fingers crossed.

If these boys were cakes they’d be exceedingly good, nah mean?

The sheer talent and energy that is channelled when these boys join together, is indeed a sight and sound to be fuckin ‘ad! So go an av it!!

Sing for your soul

Firstly, it was just the way things were, going out to a club and boshing the shit out of some miscellaneous white powder, then music got quieter in the background. I could not enjoy the night if I wasn't holding a baggy of something in my hand.

Music is like the breath in my body, so for the numbness to so quickly take me over was pretty tragic. I think, its sadly the same for a lot of people out there getting caught up in the party. The next new weird and unpredictable combination of molecules is produced to sell, and were hooked. The life we lead ends up being the life we sniff. But coming out the other end of this experience is beginning to enliven parts of me now rising from a depths Ive never known before.

I am able to use music as armbands to keep me afloat. Now, I use music in a healthy way and am learning to let it flow through me, in order to heal the damage that I have caused myself from abusing myself so long. Were under so much pressure from this emotionally suppressive society we have been born into. We need a channel to enable us to express ourselves and relieve this stress, so we don’t go mental. Music is a perfect catalyst that will enable you to summon your broken pieces back together. 

Sing, when you’re alone, just sing, sing anything that comes into your head and the truth will come out of your heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re shit or good “ to expel the bad through doing something good- is like building your path to heaven “ to rid yourself of the fear, sadness and loss that is bringing you down. A bit of hope instills itself inside you, a bit of you comes to the surface. Sometimes, you end up endlessly crying because you are releasing the daemons that have held you back from loving yourself for so long. But you know they will not stay for long so long as you carry on dealing with it by letting it out when you’re feeling low. 

Sometimes you’ll have a wicked jam and you come up with some awesome vocal melodies, so use it “ record that shit. Of course you don’t have to use the lyrics if they feel too raw. Communicating your vulnerability might be scarey but is a part of our human connection with each other. We all feel the same things, so don’t be afraid, this is what I try and tell myself when I’m feeling anxious about breaking free. If u can express yourself and make sweet music at the same time, fuck it.

Photo by Owen Connibear

Musically minded

The brain reacts to music as you would to the euphoria of a drug, or satisfaction you feel after having sex. This is because it activates the dopamine reward system. So a hit of music is the same as the hit you get from a drug. So why are we paying out’ the arse‘ole, for a buzz that we can get naturally?! and makes us feel bangin without the sacrifice? If we can continue to bring shit hot music into a sober domains we will make a new association and will enjoy music without the synthetic high. This will create a new norm. We will make real bonds, and will actually remember the laugh we had on our nights out. We’ll get proper tribal on that shit, and be buzzin, instead of hiding from the light at 5 in the morning as it slowly encroaches on us.

When you get right in there, music can grip your soul like nothing else can. We can’t forget that we have the power to change our own personal world for the better, in a bigger world that may feel so solid and set in its ways. With the encouragement of people like Angela giving us a path. We will in time learn to love ourselves instead of clutching to this self destructive behaviour many of us have come to know.

Music creation is an integral part of the day to day goings on in WGCADA helping addicts finding their way back home. I think we all have been, or indefinitely know someone who is caught up in the hedonistic lifestyle. Music has the power to bring you out of a hole. And I’m no exception.

Filling the void

Most of the artists I spoke to on the weekend, felt like it’s a culture (drink/ drug culture) that gets in the way of their art, or feel the pressure to drink when out gigging. But then some also feel like it enhances it.

Quite rightly in a discussion with Dean Harris WGCADA staff member and bassist in the The Echo and the Always. It became apparent that it is easy to blame our outer environment for the many reasons why we feel the need to use substances. So even though music venues seem to come hand in hand with drinking culture, it is the ever perpetuating force of our negative imagination, which imposes the unnecessary need to drink or take drugs.

It's like we feel the need to fulfill this self constructed idea of ‘what I need to do to relax’ or to ‘fit in’ or ‘connect’ with people. Dean said that "having a whisky before going on stage was a like a ritual" for him. We forget that this sort of behavior becomes habitual and weaves itself into to a pattern of our lives, unnoticed. So unless we are aware of what seems to be an invisible force at work, (the mind and its ability to create strong associations between music and mood altering substances) we would struggle to make positive long lasting change in our perceptions and therefore change our environment to one that may serve us more. I found it refreshing to not experience a festival in a crazy drug haze. I know now that I can do all the same things sober and that gives me confidence.

Music as a healer

We are ‘learning from the world even before we’re entering it’ Annie Murphie describes in the TED talk ‘What we learn before we’re born’. Encapsulated in a world of rhythm and vibration, the consistent sound of the heartbeat, and vibrations of the mothers tone of voice are familiar stimulation for a foetus before it goes down the big long shaft out into the big wide draft. Do these essential sounds that make the core and structure of music have the effect of ‘making us feel at home?’. Do we have a subconscious resonance with music that goes deeper than just pure enjoyment? And so music may help us to reconnect with the source of our creation. Maybe it connects to the rhythm of our own life? 

The power of music plays an integral role in the peace and heart of every member of a tribal community in Africa. Music is the vital glue between the people of the tribe. And that sings the oneness and pure truth of every individual born into it.

Here is a lovely little story:

When a mother knows she wants to have a child she goes and sits under a tree. 
Patiently, she sits until a melody comes to her, 
this becomes the child’s song. 
The deliverance of the song on the breeze and the patient and quiet listening of the mother feels like a partnership between human and the forces of our creation that delivered ‘us’ one day. 
The song is then taught to the tribe and all who meet the child and is sung in times of celebration and times of woe. From the smallest of things, such as the child falling over and hurting itself, the song is sung. 

This song will serve as a powerful and comforting reminder throughout the childs life ‘reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not’.

If they commit a crime, instead of incarcerating them, the song is lovingly sung.

Resonating with them at such a deep level, being a companion to them throughout their lives. It has the effect of clearing the pathway to the true esseance of theyre being. Bringing them back home to who they really are. From birth to death bed, the song is a consistent guiding star.